Cinematic Cosmetics – The Love Witch by Anna Biller

I’ll confess right away – I love movies (though I loathe the term cinephile…gross). I watch them a lot – I’m the kind of person who can’t focus on one thing at a time so I usually have a movie or tv show rolling in the background as I’m working on something. Now, as with any visual media, film is full of interesting aesthetic choices – including cosmetic ones. I’d like to highlight some of my favourite beauty looks in film, starting with a movie I watched recently.

 

The Love Witch is a 2016 Horror-Comedy that follows the young, widowed witch Elaine as she uses any means necessary to find the love she deserves. Director Anna Biller’s creative control is meticulous, with costumes and decor made by her to match the 60s pulp novel style that permeates the film. The makeup in particular reflects this kitschy romantic aesthetic, featuring more or less spackle-like base makeup with bright pink blush and blue eyeshadow, huge false eyelashes and ultra-thick black eyeliner.

Elaine’s outfits in the film are consistently colour-matched – in the first scene, her outfit, car and suitcases are all bright red. The title is imposed over her shimmery, turqoise-eyeshadow coated eye as distressing horror movie-esque music plays in the background. She really looks like one of those vintage paper dolls, or the heroine of a sexy-occult dimestore novel. It’s a campy, excessive femininity that borders on the grotesque in its exaggeration.

Throughout the movie, her makeup looks morph to match the tone of the scene and outfit, starting with confident bright blue shadow and pink lipstick as the love-starved Elaine starts her new life, ready for Mr. Right. The eyes play a particularly central part, as the camera zooms into Elaine’s hypnotic gaze as it’s turned on unsuspecting men who are all helpless to resist.

Intense eye makeup is a recurring theme among female characters, symbolizing both occult and sexual power – female characters without this type of appeal have a far more pared-down makeup look, like Trish, Elaine’s new friend. Other women in the film also have a natural look, making Elaine look all the more exotic in comparison.

Barbara however, is involved in the same occult circle as Elaine, where sexual polarity and female sex appeal are central. As such, she wears the sultry kohl-pencilled eye look seen above.

New initiates Moon and Star are initially fresh-faced and dressed in simple whites, but after being taught by the witch circle to draw on their sex appeal, both wear black-and-gold eye makeup and face paint as they mesmerize male onlookers.

After her first romance fails with tragic consequences, Elaine’s makeup takes on a slightly less cheery look, with blue eyeshadow traded for smoky purples and greys, only for the blue to return as she once again starts to pursue potential love interests. The colour choices and intensity of her looks reflect not only her emotional state, but her intent. As she finally falls in love for real, her colour scheme softens and lightens, presenting her as more vulnerable – and when that love fails, her misery hardens her both in behaviour and appearance.

As it turns out, Elaine’s methods are a form of self-defense and a survival mechanism in a world where men have judged, hurt and used her. In one scene where makeup plays a particularly symbolic role, a grief-stricken Trish breaks into Elaine’s apartment and starts applying her makeup and wearing her clothes, desperately trying to achieve the same type of feminine charm as Elaine – even going so far as to wear her wig and lingerie. The scene echoes Elaine’s magic rituals earlier in the film, presenting the artifice of feminine self-adornment as a form of witchcraft in itself.

In The Love Witch, Anna Biller succeeds in satirizing misogynist film tropes of 60s esoterica and sexploitation, while using a kitschy historical aesthetic that strengthens the story rather than obscuring it. It’s robust substance and technicolour surface elegantly combined to pose questions about love, power, gender and performativity, all delivered with equal measures of humour and sobriety.

1 month ago

Pink & Rosy

I mentioned in my last nail art post that I’m not exactly adept at nail art, and this is unlikely to change anytime soon. Luckily, there’s a whole industry aimed at butterfingered fools like me, producing all sorts of wonderfully tacky DIY nail art products that let you wear everything from the american flags to oil paintings on your fingertips. As a girl with fundamentally questionable aesthetic judgement, I went for good old nail stickers.

This is the easiest thing – you paint your nails (optional), cut out your sticker (like those rub-on tattoos of boy bands and puppies we all loved as a child) and press it against your nail. Tada. Art! I added some top coat to keep them in place, and there you go. [Gordon Ramsay Voice] Ugly-cute rose manicure – DONE.

Note: These aren’t the most durable high-quality stickers on the planet, so they kind of ripped and broke as I applied them. Let’s call it a grunge look, then.

1 month ago

Lip Treats

[DISCLAIMER: This post contains press samples and referral links]

Lipstick is by far my favourite beauty product, but it’s not enough to just paint your lips in fun colours and be done with it. I want my lips to be soft, smooth and comfortable at all times – and that’s where lip treatments are important. I’m not using the term balm here because a balm is not the be-all end-all of lip care – there are scrubs, serums, masks… all sorts of lip-related gimmicks.

I thought I’d share some of my favourites.

From left: Clinique Sweet Pot Sweet Rose, Verso Lip Serum, By Terry Baume De Rose Crystalline, Lanolips 101 Ointment, Akademikliniken Pure Lip Intense Berry, Dior Lip Sugar Scrub

CLINIQUE SWEET POT

I bought this because it looked cute. It’s like a little sci fi macaron, with one side filled with a sugar scrub, the other with a lightly tinted balm. It’s not the most effective balm in the world, but it’s SO cute. Sue me, I’m shallow.

AKADEMIKLINIKEN PURE LIP INTENSE

This was one of the samples handed out at Daisy Beauty Expo, and I was really pleasantly surprised when what I thought was a plain balm turned out to A. Be bright red and B. Smell and taste like raspberry drops. It’s a very thin, glossy stain-like texture with salicylic acid and antioxidants as its active ingredients.

LANOLIPS 101 OINTMENT

Unavailable in Sweden as of yet (a shame) this is 100% lanolin, a.k.a wool fat. Needless to say this product is not vegan. This stuff goes a very long way and I just love the cute tube complete with adorable long-lashed sheep mascot. You an easily find other lanolin ointments at pharmacies and beauty supplies – it’s often sold as nipple cream!

BY TERRY BAUME DE ROSE CRYSTALLINE

This is more like a gloss texture than a balm, though still very emollient and rich. It has that old-fashioned makeup smell I’m obsessed with, and is perfect smoothed over a particularly drying lipstick. I’ve busted up mine by getting lipstick on the applicator.

VERSO LIP SERUMDaisy Beauty Awards Lippie of the Year!

Verso is a Swedish skincare brand based on a patented retinoid, so of course there’s retinol in this as well. Do my lips need retinol? Probably not. Do I want it anyway? YES. This stuff also contains salicylic acid, so it will help keep flakiness at bay.

DIOR LIP SUGAR SCRUB

Another Daisy Beauty Expo sample, I was sceptical of this scrub at first but was pleasantly surprised. It didn’t look gritty enough to get the job done, but sure enough, it gets rid of gross dry flaky bits AND tastes like candy canes. And it’s pink.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

One of my favourite balm products is the Glossier Balm DotCom (I have a 20%off referral link if you want to try it), but mine was tragically lost under mysterious circumstances. I favour the pink, rose-scented version because duh, pink and rosy. If you’re not inclined to spend $12 on a lip balm just because it’s cute, Aquaphor is a tried-and-true cure for chapped lips that has basically the same formula as Balm DotCom – the holy trinity of Lanolin, Beeswax and Mineral Oil that I like to see in a balm.

1 month ago

On Love & Labour

Let’s take a serious moment. Today is Valentine’s Day, a holiday with plenty of controversy attached to it. How can a celebration of love be controversial? Isn’t love a universally pure, good thing? Well, I want to say yes. But also no.

Love can be as draining as it can be energizing. It can be productive or destructive. And unfortunately, the type of love we celebrate most – especially for Valentine’s day – is alienating and unrealistic. In my last Valentine-related post I made an offhand remark about Valentine’s Day being a celebration of heteropatriarchal capitalism. I wasn’t wrong.

I’m a lesbian, so I am by nature unimpressed with the idea of a man presenting a bouquet of red roses as a declaration of his undying passion. But I’ve grown up, like most other girls, more or less conditioned to crave male romantic attention and its gestures like the bouquets of roses, the gold necklaces, those corny teddy bears holding stuffed hearts with the text B MINE embroidered on. I’m often flattered and automatically flirty when men show me sexual interest, despite having no attraction to them. It’s like an involuntary motor response.

So through my own experience of compulsory heterosexual behaviour (which, can I add, also affects women who are attracted to men) I feel very critical of Valentine’s Day, which only adds another layer of product consumption to this stew of heteronormativity – a day for women to buy lingerie and men to buy chocolates and jewellery. What I feel most of all is the division of labour. Gifts are presented once a year in return for constant emotional work – an exhausting task that is demanded of women in many respects, but especially in romantic relationships with men.

For fear of sounding like an angry feminist – which I am – it’s a form of inequality that is at the core of male/female relationships. I see this in my own family, in my friends’ families and relationships. It appears not only with male partners but with fathers, brothers, even friends. Now, my perspective is tainted by the fact that I grew up with an abusive father, where this inequality is dialled up to its most obvious. But despite the advanced grade of emotional terror I was under, I didn’t actually see it for what it was until fairly recently. Women center men in their lives at their own expense, downplaying their own emotional needs because they think that’s the only way to “keep the peace”. But the only peace being kept is his.

PS. Karin shared her feelings on valentine’s day in a beautiful post here. (It’s in Swedish)

1 month ago

More Vintage Beauty Treasures

One of my earliest posts is a little collection of vintage beauty products and packaging, and I have two new additions to the family! Well, I actually got these last fall, but they’re new to you.

Most of my collection from the previous post were purchased on a summer trip to see my friend Mika in Karlskrona, a beautiful navy town in the southern part of Sweden. I think Mika must have some sort of wonderful dark magic attached to him, because wouldn’t you know it – when he came to visit me in Stockholm he brought me a beautiful vintage Stratton compact! (I was very excited about the Stratton engraving on the inner lid.)

It’s a sifter compact for loose powder – not a convertible. Stratton compacts are popular with collectors because there are so many different styles, many of which have the same sizes so you can swap sifters, puffs, and pans between them.

This still has powder and sifter inside, which always delights me. I used this guide to date it to, and this is my guess based on the design and back pattern, the 1940s or possibly early 50s.

When we met up, we stopped by my favourite vintage shop, Epok (which is beautiful and well worth the visit if you’re ever in my neck of the woods) and once again – there was a very familiar compact in the window. Oh yes. I’d found a bewitching little art deco compact by Houbigant in Karlskrona – and now I found her more gracefully-aged sister.

The same exact 30s-era miniature compact, but nearly new. The powder has barely been touched, and the puff is absolutely pristine. It still smells amazing. Can you believe it?!

Inside, the puff is barely stained with powder and looks like it hasn’t been touched.

The powder inside still has the original embossing which matches the pattern on the compact. It’s very typical art deco-era in terms of style, and I know from an old advertisement that this product was around in 1928.

Please share your own vintage beauty finds with me if you have any : )

 

2 months ago

Brand Overview: Apoliva Makeup

[DISCLAIMER: All products in this review were received as press samples]

At Daisy Beauty Expo, Swedish Pharmacy Apoteket presented their new colour cosmetic line. I really liked their presentation, so I was excited to try out the products. Since I’m trying several products at the same time I’ll do an overview format rather than individual reviews, so we don’t end up with so many separate, lengthy review posts. All products in this post were received as press samples.

Apoliva offers a hypoallergenic, preservative-free (mascaras excepted) makeup line sold at pharmacy locations. The line includes a total of 50 products in 12 formulations/formats and is recommended for all skin types. The packaging is sleek, simple and feels high-quality.

Face
Products tested: Foundation in 02 Beige, Powder in 02 Beige, Rouge in 03 Mellanrosa (Medium Pink).

I applied the foundation with a damp beautyblender on cleansed and moisturized skin, and found the shade a good match for me – The coverage I found was extremely light, more like a tinted moisturizer than a foundation. It set to a natural-looking satin finish without the need for powder. I did want to try the powder however, so I applied a very light dusting in my T-zone with a fluffy brush and immediately regretted it. I don’t have dry skin, but somehow this powder made me look flaky. Not my favourite.

The rouge is wonderful – very pigmented and I like the no-nonsense name of the colours across the range. I used a small blush brush for this and found it blendable and luminous – if you choose one product from this range, make it a blush!

Eyes
Products tested: Mascara Volym (Volume), Eyeshadow Palette 02 Kall (Cool), Eye Pen Grå (Grey)

For eyes, I started with Too Faced shadow insurance (as I am extremely crease-prone) and followed by laying down the second lightest shade as a base. These shadows are your typical “nude” colours, all matte essentials in five shades of brown. They are powdery but blendable and easy to work with. I followed with the middle shade in my crease, and added the darkest shade at the outer V for dimension. The lightest shade, a cream colour, worked well as a low-key highlight for the inner corner. I’ll say the result was successful – a simple but flattering everyday eye look that anyone can do – but it’s not exactly intense in terms of pigmentation or colour range.

Following eyeshadow, I applied the eye pencil as liner and winged it out slightly. The eye pencil is another of my favourites among the bunch, the grey colour isn’t too harsh and it’s easy to correct mistakes or smoke out. It works wonderfully on the waterline as well.

Then, I applied a coat of volume mascara, which didn’t really deliver volume but a very pared-down, natural look to the lashes. I like the brush, which is about the size of a toilet brush, but other than that it fell a little flat for me. Perhaps I’ll like it better after it’s dried out a little?

In conclusion, the Apoliva makeup line is more suited to a beginner or someone who doesn’t have a huge interest in makeup – it’s a natural-looking no-makeup-makeup with neutrals and essentials. It’s easy to work with, and forgiving if you make a mistake.

I enjoy the foundation very much since it’s so light – but it’s also my least favourite thing about the line. The foundation is available in 8 shades, which is a lot for a new launch – but they’re all beige. Every single one. They explained that they’re developing a separate line for dark skin, which I guess is better than nothing, but how are we supposed to interpret that? Girls with dark skin are promised a future spinoff, but won’t be included in the main line? Apoteket, you can do better than this. You should do better than this.

Price range: Lower/mid – with a price range of 99-169 SEK (11-19 USD / 10-18 EUR)
Pros: Upgraded packaging, ease of use, quality is mostly good.
Cons: Shade range is a joke, some duds in the lineup, nothing revolutionary
Referral program? No.
Reorder? Not for me – I like brighter colours!

2 months ago

HIGHLIGHTS #2 2017

Urban Decay is notorious for tactless product names, and now they and Sephora are under fire for it.

Michaela Coel’s “Chewing Gum” comedy series is my favourite right now – season one is on netflix if you’re inclined to binge!

A look inside Sephoras retail success and brand catalog.

The Maquillage x Sailor Moon base products.

I’m a HUGE fan of Sailor Moon (it was a formative childhood influence to say the least) so seeing the Sailor Moon makeup line expand in 2017 is a thrill – there’s even a collab with Shiseido’s daughter brand Maquillage. Being Japanese, the shade range is however kind of depressing.

Marcia Kilgore claims her company Beauty Pie is liberating women…the concept is nice, but I don’t think makeup is about to liberate anybody, to be honest.

Connie Fisher on makeup is an interesting half-hour investigation about why women wear makeup – as always, take it with a grain of salt. There’s an evolutionary psychologist whose analysis made me want to rip my hair out, but Dr. Yan Wu’s perspective really resonated with me. The full episode can be found on youtube.

image from ili cosmetics

PopSugar proposes green as the statement lip colour of 2017…I hope they’re right!

Several brands vow to expand shade ranges in the coming year.

On a note unrelated to beauty, I started reading Lundy Bancroft’s “Why does he do that? Inside the minds of angry and abusive men” and it’s been a real eye-opener. It’s an invaluable resource for abuse survivors, and available as a free pdf download here.

Inspo: Pink & Red (this is one of my favourite combos – I have a pinterest board for it here)

Dansk magazine spring 2014 editorial
Kenzo ss17
from wanyvelyy on instagram

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 months ago

Modernist Valentine Nails

I’m not exactly proficient at nail art, but after seeing so many cute designs I thought I could at least attempt something. I’m really obsessed with red and pink, it’s been my favourite colour combo for years now and luckily it’s very on-trend! Valentine’s day is coming up, and while the holiday itself is an off-putting celebration of the prison that is heterosexual romance, I do adore the cute aesthetic.

I used three H&M nail polishes, which I quite like – the colour range and quality is great, especially at the price point. I like the smaller bottles since I tend to switch colours a lot and bigger bottles always dry out before I can finish them. For the base, I used ‘Ice Cold Milk’ which is a milky white as the name suggests. It’s not the best white polish on the market by any means, you need a LOT of layers to make it look somewhat opaque.

Incidentally, milky white nails are hot right now so a colour like this on its own looks chic enough. Once the white base had dried completely, I free-handed strokes and blobs of red (You Say Tomato) and pink (Sweetheart) for a modern art-vibe. I don’t want to get too fussy or intricate with nails – I don’t have the skills, the patience or the taste for it. The topcoat is Essie’s Gel Setter. I hope I’ll be seeing more if this colour scheme!

2 months ago

Daisy Beauty Expo 2017 – Day 2

[DISCLAIMER: All products in this post were received as press samples.]

Day two of Daisy Beauty expo was dedicated to exhibitors and PR representatives from various beauty brands, offering everything from facials and skin analyses to hand massages and manicures. I only had a skin analysis done, which was fun since I love tech gadgets and statistics (the final chart looked like a weave draft, which goes to show how damaged I am), but aside from that I was too PMS-y and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of exhibitors and samples to sit down and have a treatment done – in retrospect it might actually have helped me calm down a little. It was a wonderful way to be overwhelmed, though – being surrounded by people who have the same passion in life as you!

The venue was so beautifully decorated with different rooms and booths in a labyrinth-like funhouse of beauty. It was a little like falling through the rabbit hole and going on a treasure hunt all at once. My favourite rooms were Garnier, who had somehow got an olive tree through the door, and L’Oreal had built a fake apartment complete with a bathroom and view of paris. There was even a model lounging about in a robe drinking champagne – so glamorous! Dior was another favourite, with a beautiful “backstage area”-like setup with the best selfie lighting in the building.

In terms of sheer human contact, Akademikliniken were informative and serene as they introduced themselves and their products, and the representative for Ellos and Makiash really took the time to chat about ingredients and favourite products. I did my skin analysis with Eucerin and had a really nice conversation with them about cosmetic chemistry (am I a nerd?) and Palina impressed with their passion for their work and down-to-earth attitude. (I told them my face produced enough oil to run a fast food franchise and they mercifully laughed along, even though I wasn’t funny at all!)

I’d been warned beforehand to bring along a suitcase to carry samples, and let’s just say I vastly underestimated the volume of product I ended up taking home. My bag was too small, so I got quite a workout carrying bags of beauty products – a great way of working up a sweat in my opinion! Perhaps someone can develop a beauty-based workout regime, I’d sign up immediately. I’ll be reviewing much of the loot I received at the expo over the coming weeks (or months, if I’m being honest). Overall, the big trends in products being promoted were;

Oils
Many brands have been pushing oils for face, hair and body over the past few years, and this trend shows no sign of stopping. Oils for the body and face dominated the skincare category at the expo, from the M Picaut lemon myrtle-scented dry body oil (spoiler alert: I really like it), Eucerin’s Elasticity+ Filler face oil, Akademikliniken’s exciting new Glow Oil (packed with Vitamin C, which incidentally has a very distinct metallic smell that I actually love), Rosenserien’s Body Oil (pitched not only as a body oil..but as a “love” oil – no comment!) and Anne Marie Börlind’s Orange Blossom Energizer – to only mention a few.

Masks
The masking trend is undeniable, and I must admit I love me a good mask. New skincare launch Palina (previously only selling colour cosmetics) sent along two masks in their sample bag, and Dior included a miniscule mask in theirs. Anne Marie Börlind’s anti-aging cream mask is offered in a very postmodern-looking sphere-within-a-cube jar, and M Picaut’s new Malachite mask tapped into both the copper and gemstone trends in skincare.

Hands
In the winter months, our hands suffer a chapped and cracked fate thanks to the cold weather, so it was unsurprising to see so many hand treatments on offer. Many booths offered hand massages and treatments – Garnier, Cinq Mondes, Rosenserien and L’Occitane, for example – and many added hand creams to their sample bags.

Natural & Organic
The “green” beauty trend shows no sign of stopping, especially not here in the eco-obsessed north. Anne Marie Börlind, Rosenserien and M Picaut are all outright marketed as natural and organic, but the heavy hitting L’Oreal and Garnier both introduced products as eco-conscious and naturally-sourced. Apoteket introduced their new makeup line as hypoallergenic and I appreciated their stance on microplastics during their earlier presentation.

As I said I was PMS-ing pretty badly so I think I was probably both rude and strange all day (I don’t know about you, but that time of the month turns my brain into goo!) but I had a great time and didn’t get any restraining orders filed against me so overall, it’s a win. I wish I could do this every weekend!

2 months ago

Review: Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil

Luna is one of those products that’s been hyped to hell and back on social media. It’s got a cute name, pretty bottle, it looks like a magical potion and supposedly is a miracle worker for your skin. Oh, Luna. Our relationship has been full of ups and downs… passion and despair. They’ll make a movie about us someday.

I was a skeptic. I know the formula contains some ingredients I’m not crazy about, notably rosemary oil which has a very strong scent that can be irritating. Regardless, I got a 15ml bottle of Luna out of morbid curiosity and started using it last spring. The bottle is tinted to protect the active ingredients from light damage but I keep mine in a black velvet pouch just to be safe.

My first impression of her wasn’t great. I was already using a retinol product so maybe this didn’t do as much as it would for “virgin” skin, but I really saw no results whatsoever despite claims of overnight improvement. After a few weeks of testing, I got a weird breakout of closed comedones all over my cheeks so I cut down my routine to the bare bones to calm my skin down. It’s not until now that I decided to give Luna another chance.

I started to reintroduce the Luna oil as my last skincare step around Christmas, adding 3-4 drops to my face each night. I didn’t see immediate results, because immediate results are near impossible to achieve. But I have to say, after a few weeks of use, my skin looks radiant, even and smooth. Now, I reintroduced a vitamin c booster around the same time so I may be seeing that effect as well, but I have to say that I’m a believer now. Luna works for me, despite how much I’ve trash-talked her (yes she is a her. a beautiful lady.).

It’s a mild retinoid, so suitable for those of us who don’t need or want the strongest stuff, but it may agitate sensitive skin since it contains a lot of essential oils. Despite this, CosDNA gives the ingredients a pretty mild rating. I recommend starting with a sample or mini size (this is a good rule of thumb in general). A lot of people dislike the smell, I find it pleasant enough (it’s very herbal) but I’d prefer if it didn’t have the fragrant oils in the formula.

I’m actually a little mad about liking this. I wish I didn’t, because I’d love to think I’m that edgy girl who doesn’t fall for the hype, but I am not.

THE RUNDOWN
Price: $105/98EUR
Size: 30ml/1oz
Pros: Light texture, Looks beautiful, promotes radiance and smoothness
Cons: Extremely expensive. Contains potentially irritating essential oils.
Repurchase? I’d love to, but it’s not in the cards for me and my student budget. Maybe once this runs out that will have changed.

 

2 months ago